A grand home for Dunedin branch
From 1883 until September 1999, BNZ's Dunedin branch was housed on the corner of Princess Street and Rattray Street. This building was designed by William Barnett Armson, one of New Zealand's earliest architects with a reputation for designing grand churches and other commercial buildings.
When he received the commission in 1879 Armson's health was declining and, despite instruction from the bank, the architect choose to ignore any economic restrictions. The building would be a monument to his life and career.
The following is an extract from the 'Illustrated New Zealand Herald' dated 20 April 1882.
"The new Bank of New Zealand, occupying as it does a most commanding position at the corner of Princes and Rattray Streets, is now completed so far as the external portion is concerned, and is about the best building in the City, if not in the Colony. It has a certain appearance of massiveness, combined with beauty and richness of design, seldom so successfully brought out in a building of such extensive dimensions."
Completed, the building was impressive. The ground floor contained a banking chamber, Manager's office with waiting room and Accountant's office and strong room. Office spaces dominated two mezzanine floors, while the first floor contained residential quarters. The second floor contained further office space and more notably, the Manager's residence. This included a sitting room, two bedrooms, kitchen, two spare rooms and a linen closet.
It cost £30,000 to build - far exceeding the figure of £26,046 specified in the original contract.
As this branch supported many of the bankers servicing the gold fields it is not surprising it was one of the busiest sites during the banks early years. In 1870 the Otago region had a staff of 40 bank officers, while the Auckland region, where Head Office was located, had a total staff of 35.